Certain insights into the nature of life can ordinarily come to you only from having committed to the intimate care of an intelligent pet that is capable of caring for you, in its own manner, in return. When dogs and their owners see each other, their brains both release measurable boosts of oxytocin, the powerful hormone generated between persons who feel they are in love.
For many, the death of a pet is their first direct experience of mortal loss and grieving within their immediate family. And the person who must choose the date on which to end the life of a beloved pet companion and then go through with the killing learns something hard about the cruelty with which this universe is constructed, about the limits of their own compassion, and about their contingent but real responsibility for whatever ultimately happens to their loved ones.
The extraordinary dog in this image was named Tashi, which is a Tibetan phrase meaning "good fortune." This shot was not a contrived Wegman-styled setup, just a moment when I found our collie-wolf mix resting quietly amidst fall leaves, looking rather like the young girl in the film poster for "American Beauty." For more than fourteen years, Tashi followed my partner and me across eleven countries, serving as a wise, trusting, grounded, and soulful companion, until her accumulating physical problems prompted us to euthanize her with the help of a vet. Just as I had held her warm little puppy body to my chest on the drive home from the pound long before, and just as I had also held her fast to me on several occasions later in life to calm and reassure her during terrifying seizures, now I held the old girl gently again one last time, as she obediently let us put her to sleep.
TITLE - "The Companion"
WHERE - Vancouver, B.C. (2013)